February 2 marked my third year in Winnipeg and I’ve taken the opportunity to reflect on my time in this quirky prairie city.
I have learned that only locals can sing “I hate Winnipeg” with gusto, or reference that highway welcome sign in an episode of The Simpsons that reads, “Winnipeg: We Were Born Here, What’s Your Excuse?”
I have never met a population that can hate its own city so much while simultaneously defending and loving it so staunchly.
A few weeks ago, I was walking over the Osbourne Bridge on a sunny, warm winter day. A group of kids were skating on the river trail and I felt my first deep sense of love for the city. It only took three years.
In no particular order, here are a few highs and lows to mark the occasion of my third year in Winnipeg:
– That first river skate with Rebecca Bock-Freeman and Steven Faust on that beautiful day in February, 2014. I felt like an excited child that day;
– Ice cream hangouts with David Camfield. The shared political and personal learning that we’ve enjoyed and struggled through. I’m lucky to have you as a friend and comrade;
– Having my worldview influenced by Indigenous organizers and friends (Gramma Shingoose, Leah Gazan, Lorrie Mainville, Lorraine Clements and Sadie Phoenix-Lavoie among many others. Note they are all women);
– Having a good beer on a patio – any patio will do;
– Playing soccer with a broadly left-wing soccer team named Crescentwood Saturday. Our rambling conversations over pints after games and practices. The Hudsons, Loxleys, Andrew, Colin, Mark, Bruce, Kamal – all legends in my eyes. Ian Hudson deserves particular credit for his contributions to the club. I feel incredibly lucky to be on this team;
– Rainbow Trout Music Festival with my former partner, floating down the river among good friends;
– Organizing with Solidarity Winnipeg. What an incredible learning experience;
– The annual Super Duty Tough Work J Dilla tribute shows;
– Organizing with the Winnipeg Peoples’ Social Forum;
– Making friends like Basia Sokal, Jen B., Ashley, Sofia, Georgia, Zully, Alex Bailey, Zach Fleisher, Riley, Michael Barkman and James Wilt, to name just a few – I have honestly made so many incredible friends here in Winnipeg. Incredibly lucky;
– Watching soccer and talking politics with Niall Harney and Peyton Veitch;
– Organizing with the Stop the Cuts campaign with the Student Action Network and alongside Mark Hudson of the University of Manitoba Faculty Association;
– Meeting Kelsey and finding our love for “expedition canoeing” and subsequent adventures (Experimental Lakes, Manigotagan, Elbow Lake, whitewater course, Riding Mountain hike, Falcon Lake, bike-camping to Birds Hill, etc.). KABLAM!
– My first drive around the city on a cold February day with Canadian Dimension editor Cy Gonick as he introduced me to the “party street” (ie. quarter block) of Osbourne Village thinking “what the fuck am I doing here?”
– My second day as a bike courier, fearing for my life on a freezing winter day as aggressive traffic rushed past me inches away along Portage Avenue (I later learned that bike couriers take the bus on extremely cold days);
– Cleaning the filthy Mondragon alone a few nights after its closure (thanks for helping, James!);
– Burnout as an organizer and a political split within the Student Action Network;
– Organizing with Solidarity Winnipeg (yes, both a high and low point!);
– Arguing with union brothers over the adoption of the city’s cops on busses policy, which unions had pushed for years. Not remotely progressive solution to the problem of violence toward drivers;
– Missing my family and friends in Montréal, and missing the city of Montréal itself.
In all of this, I think of the Indigenous lands and waters that we benefit from and live on. The prairie sunsets and starscapes nourish the soul in a profound way.
I am never at greater peace than when paddling down a slow-moving river, or sitting quietly at some remote campsite, watching the dying embers of our campfire, or the occasional flash of a meteor.
It’s been a great three years. I’m surrounded by incredibly kind, warm and interesting characters. There are some nice local beers on tap, good radical politics, pickup soccer games to be played at Gordon Bell, and beautiful landscapes to cherish. What a privilege to be here.